Fall 2011 applicant

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    Cody Thurman

    Hey guys my name is Cody and I just registered for the site.
    I’m going to be applying for grad schools in the fall and have been weighing the pros and the cons of each one.I’m going to apply to 5 schools and hopefully I’ll be able to get into atleast one.I really have three main ones that I’m considering.Before I go into the schools let me tell you a little about myself.I’m graduating this spring with a degree in plant sciences concentration landscape design and construction from the university of Tennessee. We take classes from plant I.d., construction, design, soil sciences, and autocad. We have 3 professors who have their mla, and are asla, and rla. So far I have a 3.28 GPA and have not yet taken my GRE yet but I have no worries about it. I should test well enough to meet minimums at all the schools that I’m applying to. I have yet to out my portfolio together but I have many pieces to use.  I’m going to take my hand rendered copies and redo them once more to fix small mistakes here and there and to sharpen some of the graphics. You can tell sometimes when I pulled an all nighter which I did often since I work about 30 hours a week during school. My resume is somewhat lacking. I completed an internship this summer with a landscape construction company Whig I mostly did grunt work but did have the opportunity to do a quick sketch for the boss. He presented one of the 5 quick sketches I did.  Literally spent 5 minutes on each one. The client was excited and wanted to start the project asap. They told me I could take my drawing and tune it up the use a picture of the finished project fo my portfolio. Other than that I have only had 2 jobs. The one I just got which is in a pharmacy (kroger) and another which I had for 3.5 years in another pharmacy. It just pays too well and is flexible with my school schedule.  

    Okay now for the schools, UTknoxville, LSU, UGA, UC Denver, and USC. 
    Instate tuition
    Know many of the professors
    I have excellent knowledge in plants suited for that exact region.
    I could have my mla in only 2 years coming from my degree.

    I can’t use my three professors for letters of references since they are on the admissions board.
    I really am tired of Knoxville and would love to leave Tennessee for good.
    Fairly new program and not accredited (first class graduates this year). 

    I have references from two mla alumni of this program
    Since UT isn’t accredited I will get instate tuition
    Ranks pretty high if those systems aren’t skewed.
    Many of the plants I know are readily usable in this area.

    Hard to get into 16 max per year.
    I’ve got some things I’d really like to get away from and this isn’t that far away
    I hate college towns especially during the summer when everyone else leaves. 

    I can get instate tuition here also.
    Design intensive
    Ranks highly
    Can use three 3 LAs as references

    This is the only place that I have been where it is more humid than TN
    I don’t know anyone down there
    I could see myself partying down there 

    UC Denver
    Maybe a move like this could open up a whole new world to me
    Seem to have a good program. 
    I’m an outdoorsman

    Whole new plant palette and plant communities
    Out of state tuition ouch
    I’d literally know noone (maybe this isn’t a con) most people don’t leave the small town that I’m from.

    good program
    I like California

    I will be broke as hell
    I would rather be in a city where I could commute by bike

    Anyone know how selective are UC Denver LSU and USC?
    Portfolio tips to help me make the best impression
    Please discuss the schools, roughly how many students are accepted to each school?
    Any advice for my campus visits and for writing my letter of intent.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’d suggest LSU (I have no connection to any of these schools). It is in state tuition for , very highly respected, accredited, and not way out of your element or a huge move for you.

    Cody Thurman

    Thanks Andrew. It’s a 13 hour drive from home which is far enough away. It’s currently my number one choice however I am very interested in UCD as well.
    Learning new plants is not a big deal to me. I fell in love with Colorados landscaping after reading the book plant driven design.
    One thing I’m curious about is what kind of reputation does UCD have? I have found really affordable housing in Denver and also they allow you to do a dual degree MLA/MArch.
    I feel that if they are cranking out good LA’s then it’s fine by me. I’m looking to really get out of my comfort zone because I feel I will grow as a person and a designer. 


    I can’t speak to the reputation of UCD in particular as I went to CSU in Fort Collins, but I can tell you a little about the region as I live in Denver and work just outside the city.

    I’ve been living along the Front Range for almost ten years from Boulder, to Fort Collins, and now Denver. The lifestyle is tough to beat if you like the mountains and outdoors–320+/- days of sunshine each year on average and a 15 min drive to the foothills. We have lots of parks and open space and the city is young and growing.

    The ‘cons’ as I see it is the large number of unemployed landscape architects which go along with the large number of employers in the design-build sector while very few design-only firms. The design-only firms we have tend to be larger corporate entities, while the smaller firms tend to basically be one-person operations. There are a few smaller ’boutique’ firms like you’d find along the coasts that do interesting work, but it’s very difficult to get in.

    I would say there is a tendency here in colorado to design very pragmatically, if that makes sense. Projects I’ve worked on locally have been pretty cut and dried and straight forward. There isn’t a lot of experimentation or room to do much ‘heavy-thinking.’ I don’t know if this is reflected(ive) in the schools or not. I thought CSU was relatively forward-thinking compared to a lot of the bread and butter work that is done locally, but then again a lot of CSU grads tend not to stick around the state.

    If I were to attend grad school and thought I might want to focus 100% on studio I might challenge myself a bit more by checking out one of the schools along the coasts–UGA/USC, etc.

    That said, CSU just started their MLA program in Fort Collins. Message me if you’d like contact info for a professor.

    Those are all good schools that you listed as far as I have heard. One thing I would consider is that studio is as much about what you put into it as what you get in return. I believe you could go nearly anywhere and so long as you work hard, you’ll be able to progress.

    Cody Thurman

    Thanks nick. You are one of the reasons I’m going to pursue an mla.
    I was going to stick with my bachelors in LD&C until I saw some of your videos on YouTube. You opened my eyes to a whole nother side of Landscape architecture (I used to be a residential only oriented.
    You have great graphics man.
    I saw the new program info for CSU fairly recently. I’m sure they’d be a great school to visit as well when I’m visiting UCD. Of course they aren’t accredited yet but I’d assume it would have no trouble becoming accredited since they have a good undergrad program.


    Wow, thanks for the complement Cody.

    I didn’t realize the CSU program wasn’t accredited. I think it will probably develop into a strong program.

    Good luck and feel free to ask me if you have any specific questions about Denver. I come from a design-build background as well so I have an idea of where you’re coming from. Talk to you soon..

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Do not underestimate the disadvantages of accumulating debt in these uncertain times. That is why I’d either stick close to home for in state tuition or move in time to gain residency in another state if a state school is the choice. I moved 3,000 miles, worked for a year and a half and remained in that state for a few years after. It was very much worth it.

    Cody Thurman

    Well I found out now that I can no longer get instate tuition at lsu or anywhere else but utk. I may be able to appeal but the odds of getting approved are slim. However I’d really like to attend a school that is already accredited so that I’m eligible to sit for the lare. So it seems as though I’ll be racking up some debt from out of state graduate school loans. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a GA or some scholarships to help ease the pain of out of state.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Or move now and establish residency. … that is what I did. I spent a year and a half working (and bought my first house) in preparation for going to an affordable school. … I also moved 3,000 miles.

    Cody Thurman

    My one problem is I’m finishing up school now and won’t graduate until may. And if I move after that, I will have to take a year and a half off. Unfortunatley as soon as I take that year and a half off to work, my student loans will begin to accrue interest and I have to start paying them off. If I stay enrolled full time meaning grad school the fall after undergrad, I will not have to pay them off yet and they will not gain interest until acts grad school. So if I could find decent work, maybe something design or construction related it could be worth it and I could pay off my loans in that time and establish residency in order to get in state tuition. I’ll have to start checking this spring for jobs and maybe even see if I can transfer my current job to a new location after graduation.


    Not to make light of your situation, but welcome to student loan slavery Cody. I believe most federal subsidized loans have a ‘grace period’ of at least 6 months. In this economy you may very well be able to extend this for you. If not, you can certainly claim economic hardship/forebearance to get you through the time between while gaining residency.

    You may also be able to enroll early or take part time classes. Yet another option may be to just make a few minimum payments until you re-enroll.

    Good Luck.

    Jason T. Radice

    No more fed-subsidized loans from banks, you are essentially borrowing right from the feds. Grace period? Try 90 days. Plus, an obscene (in this era of low interest rates) rate of 7 to 10%, which starts to accrue as soon as you take any money.

    I’m trying to self-finance my MLA by taking secured loans against myself, in which I will actually make money on interest. I don’t want a luxury car payment owed to the Feds every month with no gurantee that the economy will have recovered enough to be able to pay it back! Staying as faaaaar away from the fed programs a possible, as who knows what the hell will happen with them because of the politics. (The student finance “reforms” were passed as part of Obamacare, which may be repealed or defunded depending on the election in November) .


    Just got an email today from Colorado State University (free advertising)…

    They are offering half tuition to in-state sudents this year and no tuition for students that are eligible for Pell Grants. They mentioned that they are 1 of 4 (If I remember) schools in the nation doing this.

    Kind of makes me wish I waited to go back to school!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Which costs more, interest on a student loan for a year or out of state tuition for two or three years?

    Cody Thurman

    Touché haha. I was worried I was going to have to keep paying them during grad school if I took that year off. I found out that it would freeze once I reenrolled so I wouldn’t have to make payments during school which is good. I also looked at colorado’s requirements for establishing domicile and it appears that if I meet enough requirements then I can be granted residency after a year even while enrolled in the program. I just have to satisfy a majority of the things on the list like switching licenses, registering for a license plate in Colorado, paying state income tax, etc. Seems pretty exciting. But taking a whole year off might be the best option for me, I just would be afraid that I would get lazy after a year off of school.

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